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June 05, 2006



Firstly, within a liberal framework there is definitely a place for conservatism e.g see Republican party in the U.S. I think liberals are threatened that the way the Islamic world exists today, fundamentalism and conservatism would have no place for them.

However I think the main problem is that both liberals and conservatives end up engaging with the ideologues on the other side rather than the free thinking.

For instance, I would have no problem living in a state which was governed by yourself or Haroon's ideas. Similarly while I think that you would detest Irshad Manji world, I don't think that you would have too much of a problem with Eteraz world. For evidence of this we only need to see the exhillirating debate between Eteraz and Haroon.

In any case, are you going to go to the debate on Wednesday? I may come although I feel like I've seen both Tariq Ramadan and HuT too many times.

All the best,


the liberals feel threatened that the conservatives will undermine the very diversity and free-thinking they desire to propogate. they want to define the parameters of the debating arena/field that the conservatives can exist within to allow for multiplicity of views. but this kind of muzzling is in itself illiberal and can resort to becoming overly ideological and combative.


Should free societies permit the existence of views which undermine the free society?

Honestly, thabet, I'm a little confused as to your premise. You seem to be suggesting that their is hypocracy among liberals for not promoting and accepting people who would actively seek to undermine the goals of a liberal society.

I agree at least that conservatives are not being hypocritical - they are intolerant and unapologetically so. It is only the liberals who one can possibly critisize, because it is they who have the vision to create a more inclusive society. And in that inclusiveness, they are critiqued for not accepting those who would undermine their inclusiveness.


I think that liberalism is always at risk of this particular flaw unless it makes the analysis of power one of its epistemological cornerstones.

As for the MWU progs, their perspective is doubly flawed because they fail to analysis the power implicit in being located at the heart of Empire. Let's face it, if non-Western people are prepared to have surgery to look 'Western', surely one should be a little less brash in constructing an 'American' Islam, especially one that is so prone to anti-scholasticism.


The Muslim Anarchist


Thank you for posting this.

I've noted that on a lot of social networking blogs, many Muslims I know identify themselves as "liberal" or "very liberal" -- I am perhaps the only, or one of the only, who chooses to be considered conservative and Muslim.

I feel like too many Muslims, in the words of Umar Lee, jump into bed with liberals, thinking that superficial similarities necessitate deep intellectual parallels. Whereas I think that the problem with conservatism is its dominance, especially in the US, by the dumbest and most paranoid (I include the administration in this detailed analysis), and that in reality Muslims and conservatives are more natural allies than Muslims and liberals.

True conservatism values tradition, family, religion, life, the small-scale, distrust of secular authority, respect for life, marriage and cultural rootedness, all of which mark Islamic societies. Indeed, the decline in the Muslim world, in my mind, can be blamed on the decline of such values: Marriage has become the means to suppress women, secular authority has, a la Hizb al-Tahrir, become God, and cultural rootedness is replaced by a servile attitude towards all that is foreign ie better.


Shariq, Steve: Muslim liberals like to concentrate on 'Islamic pluralism' in order to give their own views an airing. Now there is nothing wrong with this: it generates debates, dialogue, their views might well be part of Islamicate traditions too, and (although conservative and traditional Muslims will not like to admit it) they have waded into sensitive areas and forced a rethink amongst Muslims about some community practices and attitudes (Salafis did the same too, somewhat, with their demands that individual Muslims take control of their own religion; although Salafis are not liberals I hasten to add).

However, what they also seem to demand is that conservative views are ultimately eliminated. Liberal Muslims will brush aside conservative attitudes and practices and seek to marginalise them as though they were of no importance. Indeed, except for rare occassions, liberals will dismiss a traditional/conservative critique (some, to their credit, will honestly engage with it). This undermines their own case for 'pluralism' and it seems all they want is cultural and social dominance. So, can I conclude that talk of 'Islamic pluralism' is nothing more than bid for power and hegemony?

Consider both Yakoub's (who is not a "conservative" as we would popular think) and Haroon's (though conservative, is not traditionalist, per se) comments carefully.

(I don't know jsm, but s/he makes some a worthy point too.)


I embrace liberalism, and I respect your opinion thabet, I enjoy reading your blog.

it's just my experience that conservatives have little room in their worldview for people unlike themselves.

A Christian conservative, and an Islamic conservative, for example, would have difficulty co-existing together even though their beliefs on many core family issues (modesty as well), might be similar. That being said a liberal christian and a liberal muslim, would at least respect the right of the other to have the equal right to exist in society, and would not impose their worldview on the other.

look at the countries in the west where Muslims are today: who is fighting for their rights? Is it the conservative, or is it the liberal?

and if i went to saudi arabia, or anywhere else in the middle east, who would be fighting for my rights - would it be the conservatives of the country, or the liberals?

conservatives fight for themselves, liberals fight for everyone. This goes to the heart of inclusiveness.


Thabet, I agree with a lot of points which have been raised in this discussion.

With regards to Yaqoub's comment about the analysis of power, I agree that liberalism isn't free from imperialistic tendencies. However, rather than using say Foucault, I think it can be better challenged based on a scientific understanding of human nature. (see e.g Straw Dogs by John Gray - will post a review of this soon)

With regards to Haroon's comments, I think that a lot of difference has to do with different starting points. I'd say conservatives see a lot of value in certain principles and don't like to move away unless their is overwhelming evidence e.g. on why apostasy is wrong.

Liberals on the other hand tend to start off by favouring the individual and then accept communal principles such as those outlined by Haroon when they see a flaw in their own systems.

Finally, yes, diversity and pluralism can be achieved in both. However rather than criticising liberals for not seeing this, isn't it the challenge for conservatism to rebuild itself. Liberalism has its own problems such as its relationship with the wider community and the presence of moral values to worry about solving conservatism's problems as well.

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